|Ben Cherington on D&C: Kevin Youkilis trade ‘best for everyone’||06.25.12 at 10:47 am ET|
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington joined Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to talk about Sunday’s trade of Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox, Clay Buchholz‘s trip to the 15-day DL with a gastrointestinal disorder, David Ortiz‘s role in the clubhouse and more.
Cherington told John Dennis and Dale Arnold, sitting in for the vacationing Gerry Callahan, that he felt Sunday’s dramatic day at Fenway played out well, thanks to a Sox win and an ovation for Youkilis.
‘It was a busy few days,’ Cherington said. ‘We were working hard to find a resolution and give our clubhouse and our manager a chance to get a little bit more stability back to our lineup and to find an opportunity for Kevin to get a fresh start.’
While Cherington said he had told Youkilis that the Red Sox were talking to teams about a trade a handful of times over the last two or three weeks, it was only in the last few days that they began to push for one in earnest.
‘We got to a point several days ago where we decided ‘you know what, this might be the best thing, if there is a trade that we could find, it may be the best thing for everyone,’’ Cherington said. ‘We’ve got so much respect for Kevin, certainly personally, I do. I was the farm director when we joined the organization and he plays his heart out every day he gets in a Red Sox uniform so I wanted to see him get an opportunity, but the reality is, Will Middlebrooks deserves to play and Bobby [Valentine]’s got to put Middlebrooks in the lineup. And it made for a tough situation and we tried to make the best of it and move Adrian [Gonzalez] around, and try to mix and match to get guys in there but it wasn’t ideal so we decided if there was a trade we could find that made sense we would pursue it and we’ve been working on that for several days and it just so happened that the White Sox one was the one we liked the best.’
As to whether trading Youkilis would help ease reported tensions in the clubhouse, Cherington said he didn’t know exactly what the media was referring to but said ‘I think it was hard, I think it created a challenge for Bobby, certainly. You have guys, you know, that should be playing and you have too many guys for the spots in the lineup. That’s just the reality. When you have guys that can play every day and are sitting on the bench, at least one every night that maybe you shouldn’t have.’
The Red Sox on Monday kick off a three-game series at Fenway Park against division rival Toronto. The Sox pushed past the Blue Jays and out of a tie for last place in the AL East on Sunday, and they’re looking to avoid falling back to the bottom.
On the mound for the Sox will be Felix Doubront, who has been a pleasant surprise all year, providing much-needed consistency for a starting rotation that has struggled with that. The 24-year-old lefty leads the team in wins (8, tied with Clay Buchholz), and strikeouts (85). His 4.31 ERA trails only Josh Beckett (4.14) among Sox starters.
Doubront struggled in his last outing, giving up four earned runs on nine hits in six innings against the Marlins at Fenway (although the Sox won the game, 15-5). His four strikeouts were his fewest since May 7. That he pitched far better in Miami a week earlier should come as no surprise, as Doubront has been far less effective at home, with a 5.59 ERA at Fenway compared to 3.19 ERA on the road.
Doubront has faced the Jays twice this season (both in Toronto), compiling a 1-0 record and 4.31 ERA. Career-wise, in 56 total plate appearances, the Blue Jays are hitting .269 against Doubront, with three home runs, seven RBIs and 13 strikeouts.
Fellow Venezuelan Henderson Alvarez will take the mound opposite Doubront. The 22-year-old is 3-6 with a 4.30 ERA in 14 starts this season and has particularly struggled in June, going 0-2 with a 6.29 ERA. His troubles actually date back to his last seven starts, during which time he is 0-4 with a 6.26 ERA.
Henderson features a fastball which he throws 72 percent of the time, a change up (18 percent) and a slider (10 percent). Though his fastball consistently reaches into the mid-to-upper 90s, Henderson does not generate many strikeouts, with just 27 on the season.
He has had some success against the Red Sox, holding them to a .217 batting average in 48 plate appearances. But when he faced them on June 1, he allowed four runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings and took the loss.
|Sunday’s Red Sox-Braves matchups: Aaron Cook vs. Mike Minor||06.24.12 at 12:02 pm ET|
In their final interleague game of the season, the Red Sox wrap up their series with the Braves Sunday afternoon at 1:35. Though still in last place in the division, Boston (37-34) enters Sunday’s game three games over .500 and is 8-2 over the last 10 games.
With Clay Buchholz out due to an undisclosed illness, 33-year-old Aaron Cook takes the mound for the Sox on Sunday, making just his second start of the season and his first since May 5. Boston is hoping Sunday’s start will go better for Cook (0-1), who posted a 20.25 ERA against the Orioles, giving up seven runs (six earned) on eight hits in just 2 1/3 innings en route to an 8-2 Sox loss.
In a play at home plate during that game, Cook opened up a nasty gash on his left knee, requiring 11 stitches and forcing the 10-year veteran to the 15-day disabled list.
Prior to joining the Sox in the offseason, Cook spent his entire career in the National League pitching for the Rockies, so he has a good deal of familiarity with Atlanta’s lineup, having faced 15 current Braves at least once.
Not surprisingly, 17-year vet Chipper Jones has faced Cook more than any other Brave. The switch-hitting future Hall of Famer is hitting .346 with three doubles, two home runs, seven RBIs and seven strikeouts in 29 career plate appearances.
Overall, the Braves are hitting .272 against Cook, with 16 RBIs and 16 strikeouts. Jones’ two home runs are the only two the Braves have off of Cook.
Atlanta (38-33) sends out 24-year-old Mike Minor for his 14th start of the season. The seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft, the former Vanderbilt hurler enters the game with a 3-5 record and an ERA of 6.04.
Minor had a decent April, going 2-2 with a 4.68 ERA, but struggled in May, giving up 28 earned runs in just 25 innings pitched for a 9.95 ERA. He’s been better in June with an ERA of 3.00 but struggled again in his outing, giving up four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Yankees on June 18.
Cody Ross is the only Boston player with a plate appearance against the lefty, going 2-for-3 with a double and a strikeout.
|Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish just worried about the here and now||06.22.12 at 1:23 am ET|
The more Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish succeed, the more Red Sox fans are intrigued. After all, it’s easy to get caught up in Nava’s numbers, which include a .439 average in 14 June games including six multi-hit games that has him hitting .340 in 35 games overall. It’s easy to see Kalish race from first to third on a hit-and-run grounder off the bat of Mike Aviles in the eighth inning and say the Red Sox need that energy.
And it’s easy to wonder why – when Nava drives in Kalish with the go-ahead run on a broken bat single – both can’t stay with the Red Sox long term.
That’s not even mentioning Will Middlebrooks, who appears closer and closer to a full-time job as the Red Sox starting third baseman.
But with Nava and Kalish, it’s fascinating because of what is waiting in the wings several weeks down the road with Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury. Both are getting ready for game activity as part of their rehab programs, including Crawford on Saturday in Florida.
“I’ve been aware of it since I got called up and so I know it’s a reality,” Nava said after driving in the winning run in Boston’s 6-5 win over the Marlins. “It was a reality the last time I got called up. But if there’s anything I can do to help the team get back to where we’re hanging in there, those guys come back and have a shot, who knows where it’s going to go. I’m aware of it. I think anyone who gets called up and doesn’t have a big contract, it’s a reality.”
The reality is that left fielder Carl Crawford has yet to play a game in the second season of a seven-year, $142 million deal. The reality is that Jacoby Ellsbury is an All-Star caliber center fielder who finished just behind Justin Verlander in the American League MVP voting in 2011 and is making $8 million this season.
Nava, on the other hand, was signed to a minor league deal before spring training after making $417,500 in 2011. Kalish isn’t far behind. He’s making $483,000 this season. It’s assumed that one or both will head back to Triple-A Pawtucket when Crawford and Ellsbury return.
“Those decisions aren’t mine to make,” Nava said. “It can’t hurt but at the same time it’s not about me trying to put a feather in my cap. It’s about me trying to say, ‘Hey, this is something I did to help the team win’ and get in the right direction. They’ll make the decisions they have to make and whatever they think will help the team is what they’re going to do.”
“It’s awesome,” Kalish said of Nava and Middlebrooks. “They’ve been here a while and they’ve been doing since the day they got here. As young guys, that’s all you want to do, you want to bring fire and spark people.”
Never was that spark more evident than when Kalish went first-to-third on a hit-and-run grounder by Mike Aviles to the second baseman to set up the game-winning run in the eighth.
“If I don’t feel that true aggressive feeling of no regrets, then I’m not going to try it,” Kalish said. “But on that play, I felt really confident about it.”
Nava and Kalish’s teammates appreciate their hustle. Read the rest of this entry »
|David Ortiz goes off on media: ‘Just tired of dealing with the drama here’||06.21.12 at 5:28 pm ET|
In the middle of one of the best seasons he’s had since his record-setting 54-homer season, Ortiz was asked if he were having fun.
“Not really,” said Ortiz, who is leading the team with 18 homers and 49 RBIs while batting .313 heading into Thursday’s game. “Too much [expletive], man. People need to leave us alone and let us play baseball.”
Ortiz began to expand when asked about the lack of a multi-year contract.
‘I motivate myself just to win,” Ortiz said. “Like I say, this is a great place to win and I’ll try to keep it that way.
‘I don’t know, man, I’m just tired of dealing with the drama here. This is baseball, man. It seems like everything that goes on around here is like one of those congress decisions that will affect the whole nation. It ain’t like that, man, this is baseball. We’re supposed to have fun, to have our performance out there at the highest level. every day is something new, some drama, some more [expletive]. I’m tired of that, man. I’m here to play baseball, man.’
Ortiz was asked if he still want to be in Boston after 2012.
‘I don’t know,” Ortiz said. “I’ll think about it.’
The other hot-button topic was the Buster Olney column from earlier in the week that labeled the Red Sox clubhouse as “toxic.”
‘Horrible,” Ortiz said. “We had a team right here, a group of guys, they just come in and out, put us all together and try to win a ballgame. I don’t know where those comments are coming from or where they are going to, or where they start at. I haven’t found out yet. In my case, I’m here to provide wins and my teammates are on the same page.
‘That’s how you win ballgames,” he continued. “Everybody together.’
‘This ain’t all about me,” Ortiz said. “I’m not the only player here. We have 25 guys who care just as much as I care about playing ball here and providing winning ballgames. It seems like every day there’s something new about players. People need to just leave us alone and let us play ball.
“It’s starting to become the [expletive]hole it used to be,” Ortiz said. “Playing here used to be so much fun.”
On June 9, Matsuzaka struggled in his first start back from Tommy John surgery, giving up four runs in five innings to the Nationals, though he racked up an impressive eight strikeouts to just one walk in the process. In his second start, Matsuzaka lasted through the sixth inning, allowing three runs on four hits, but struggled with his control, walking three and hitting a batter, as the Cubs dealt him his second straight loss.
In his 11 innings this season, Matsuzaka has been relying on his fastball 71 percent of the time. That number jumps to 82 percent when he falls behind in the count. His curveball and slider each account for about 10 to 12 percent of his other pitches, while it appears he has yet to regain confidence in his changeup, which accounts for only 6 percent of his pitches and a meager 1 percent against right-handed batters.
Matsuzaka faces an unfamiliar opponent in the Marlins, having pitched to just four Miami players. Only John Buck, with 11 plate appearances, has had any real success against Matsuzaka, with two doubles and an RBI to go along with three strikeouts.
Carlos Zambrano, though listed as day-to-day with a stiff back, is expected to take the hill opposite Matsuzaka. Zambrano hasn’t missed a start since since tweaking his back on June 9, but is certainly pitching like he’s injured. In the two games he’s pitched since hurting his back, Zambrano has lasted fewer than 3 innings in each and allowing a combined 11 runs and nine walks in 4 1/3 innings.
Overall however, Zambrano has been quite effective this season with seven quality starts in 10 outings. Though he’s only 4-5 on the year, the 31-year-old righty’s ERA was an impressive 2.81 prior to tweaking his back on June 9 against the Rays, (it’s ballooned to 3.92 since).
In two career starts against the Red Sox, Zambrano has failed to finish six innings pitched in either, allowing a combined seven runs and six walks. However, only seven current Sox players have faced Zambrano and are hitting a collective .227 with just one home run and 13 strikeouts in 44 at-bats.
There’s no disputing the fact that David Ortiz is having another prodigious offensive year.
He’s leading the Red Sox offense.
But the most encouraging sign for the team might be found in those around him in the batting order and just how much they’re taking advantage of his production.
Mike Aviles homered Wednesday night, a three-run blast to left that gave the Red Sox the lead for good in the second inning.
One inning later, Cody Ross connected for a three-run double that put the Red Sox up, 6-2.
“I’ve watched a number of games on TV when I was in the other league and the Red Sox were on,” Ross said. “Especially last year, they led every category in baseball, offensively. It just looked like a lot of fun. Now I’m here and I’m part of it and getting to enjoy it and reap the rewards. Guys are just getting on base left and right, it seems like. We’re coming up with big hits, just Red Sox baseball.”
The Red Sox have scored 29 runs in their last three games, including a season-high 15 runs in Wednesday’s 15-5 romp over the Marlins.
“Everyone knows that we have a pretty good offense,” Aviles said. “We scuffled for a little bit but it seems everything is going back to the way we’ve been. Everything is clicking and we’re just getting everything on the same wavelength and it’s helping.
“I was just looking for a pitch I can drive. There were two outs and if Salty doesn’t hustle to second base on Youkilis’ ball, the inning is over. I want to say that because I know that’s going to be overlooked. Just because he ran hard gave me a chance to hit.”
Aviles brought up the old cliche about hitting in a lineup being contagious. With Ortiz heating up with three homers in three games, Aviles and the Red Sox want to spread the winning germ right now.
“Hitting is definitely contagious, and so is winning,” Aviles said. “Absolutely. Anytime you get a couple of wins together, you get that good confidence rolling, and that’s where we’re at now.”
What’s starting to happen is what’s been happening around Fenway every year since Ortiz became a full-time force in the lineup in the middle of 2003. Everyone is getting hot at the same time.
Daniel Nava had four hits Wednesday and raised his average to .333 in 34 games. That 102 at-bats. Not insignificant.
“He’s contributed since Day 1,” Ross said. “I was telling somebody the other day I still haven’t seen him give up an at-bat. And that’s one of the main reasons we’re playing well. He’s contributed and come up and done an outstanding job. He deserves a lot of credit.”
Even Kevin Youkilis got into the act, collecting a single and a double to raise his average to .225. Of course, on his double in the sixth, pinch-runner Will Middlebrooks came into the game. In his only at-bat in the eighth, he launched a laser of a two-run homer to left.
Middlebrooks had done a lot to blend in with the likes of Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and Ortiz already. He’s got seven homers and 27 RBIs in 37 games, and by the way, he’s batting .303 in his first big-league experience.
“It’s fun but it’s a business, too,” Middlebrooks said of watching the offense up close. “When you’re here, winning is very important. In the minor leagues, it’s more individual development. You have guys like Pedey and Adrian and “Big Papi”, you want to blend in and you want to be able to help; just watching those guys go about their business and pick up little things they do.”
You got the feeling watching the Red Sox over the last two days at Fenway, they’re ready to break out like they do every summer in the last 10 seasons.
But this year’s Red Sox have a bit of ground to make up. The offensive display they put up on Wednesday showed – as a group – they’re ready for the challenge.
|Ryan Kalish: ‘I can smile about it now’||06.20.12 at 12:51 am ET|
Kalish – in his first game back at Fenway this season – got a good jump off the bat, ran to the spot like any good major league outfielder does, stuck out his glove and expected the ball to float right into the web.
The ball glanced off the tip of his glove and went to the wall for a three-base error and the Marlins were in business against Matt Albers and the Red Sox.
“Just missed it,” Kalish said, while breaking into a grin that a kid gives to a parent when he’s been caught doing something wrong. “Obviously, I can smile about it now but at the time, I wasn’t. I just dropped it. There’s no excuse for that and it won’t happen again.”
This was quite the bumpy night for Kalish filled with plenty of turbulence.
In the fifth, he misjudged a two-out fly ball off the bat of Logan Morrison that landed close to the base of the wall in left-center. That apparent miscue allowed the Marlins to tie the game, 5-5.
“We talked about it,” Kalish said. “With two outs, I probably should have tried to go to the wall first. If there were no outs, I could’ve played it different. I haven’t been in this park in a while. I’m going to make an adjustment.”
Then in the sixth he struck out for the second out with an important insurance run standing just 90 feet away at third, in the person of Daniel Nava. He appeared so disheartened that he forgot to run to first after swinging at the pitch in the dirt. The throw was made to first and Nava had to hold.
Kalish said the previous blunders had nothing to do with “The Drop” in the seventh.
“That wasn’t really in my head, especially with that play,” Kalish said. “It was just one of those things, you drop a ball. I really can’t remember ever dropping a ball like that in my life. It’s funny it happened in the big leagues.”
“He’s such a good outfielder,” Ross said. “This place can get the best of you. I’ve had my troubles out there as well. I just told him that. I said, ‘Listen, man, we’ve all done it, we’ve all dropped fly balls. I dropped one this year already. I’ve misplayed a few balls. It happens. Shake it off. You’re a great outfielder and we’re going to get out of this right here.’ The bullpen came in and did a great job of not letting them get that run in right there.”
Ironically and appropriately, it was Morrison flying out to Kalish to end the inning without a run scoring.
“I had a ton of support from the guys, Cody especially, having so much experience,” Kalish said. “When they made that pitching change right after, he just kind of talked to me and calmed me down. That really helped me out, got my confidence back.”
And his calming words?
“He had done it himself,” Kalish said of Ross’ conversation with him. “He’s done it before in his career.”
|Bobby Valentine: ‘We’ll have a winning record at home’||06.19.12 at 9:20 pm ET|
Bobby Valentine is a confident man.
He knows what the record shows — and that’s a 14-19 mark at Fenway. Only the Royals, Twins and Mariners are worse at home so far in 2012. But Valentine is confident that won’t last.
“That’s the good news,” Valentine said. “We’ll have a winning record at home when it’s all over and it means we’ll win a lot more than we normally do.”
Starting with Josh Beckett, Valentine had a lot to catch up with when he arrived at the park on Tuesday.
“It’s been a medical day for me. Everything seems to have gone perfectly,” Valentine said.
The news started with Beckett, who Valentine said was hopeful to just miss one more start and be back toward the end of the homestand against the Jays. Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford both worked out at Fenway before Tuesday’s game. Ellsbury hurt his right shoulder in the team’s home opener on April 13 against the Rays and hasn’t played since.
“Close to playing — close to game activities,” Valentine said of Ellsbury. “I don’t mean tomorrow. But he’s close. He’s made great, steady progress.”
Meanwhile, Valentine said Crawford could be on a Minor League rehab assignment by next week. Crawford started the season on the disabled list recovering from left wrist surgery. When it appeared things were getting better, he sprained UCL joint in his left elbow.
Then there’s closer Andrew Bailey. He underwent right thumb surgery just before the season.
“Andrew came in this afternoon, I talked to him, he’s feeling great,” Valentine said. “He has a mound session here [soon], and you know, we’re going to take it from a mound to another mound to a simulated situation to possibly an inning down in Florida, and then off to a rehab assignment.”
While Scott Podsednik‘s groin injury is not considered serious (officially “mild”), the team doesn’t need another extended stay on the DL for an outfielder.
“It’s a not few days,” Valentine said. “It’s probably not two weeks. When it gets to that middle ground, it’s really a difficult decision. To play short for seven days, it’s tough. Scott’s not real happy about it. He thinks seven days would be fine He’s playing so well, I’d love to have him in there. I think this is the right thing to do.
“I think we’re playing OK. We’re getting some health back. We’re going to play our best tonight and take it from there.”
|Josh Beckett: ‘People are trying to sabotage us’||at 6:24 pm ET|
Before Tuesday’s series opener with the Marlins at Fenway, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine joined his players in vehemently denying a report this week that the atmosphere inside clubhouse is “toxic.” Olney reported that players and team staff are frustrated with the way the team is being handled inside the clubhouse, leading to a potentially explosive atmosphere.
“I don’t know to define toxic,” Valentine said Tuesday afternoon in his first public comments since Olney’s blog that ripped the Red Sox culture. “It’s too big a word for me. “I’m not going to comment on people’s articles. I don’t even comment on [Boston media] articles. Why would I comment on somebody who I don’t think knows anything.”
[Click here to listen to Bobby Valentine respond to Buster Olney’s column.]
After about seven minutes of answering questions, the subject of the Red Sox clubhouse came up again.
“It’s a bunch of guys who get dressed and play loud music before the game and seem to get ready. I don’t have a word for it. I don’t think it’s Romper Rooms or whatever it is, it’s a lot of guys. It’s a lot of men who hang out together, and a lot of changing parts in there, too.”
Josh Beckett was even stronger about Olney’s column.
[Click here to listen to Josh Beckett stick up for his teammates]
“Completely fabricated,” Beckett said before being asked if he thought the Red Sox still had a good clubhouse. “Absolutely. I don’t know where people get that from. I think people want that to be the case and I just don’t think it is. I think this is probably one of the tightest-knit groups I’ve ever been a part of, with dinners on the road, a couple family trips here this last time. We do a lot of stuff together. There’s a good continuity here. I think there are certain people, they want it to be that way, and so they report it that way. it’s just not like that at all.”
Beckett was then asked if he’s bothered by the speculation.
“That people are trying to sabotage us? I don’t think that’s good at all,” Beckett said. “We don’t pay too much attention to it. the only time we have to deal with it is when we have to answer questions. This is a really good group of guys. It’s one of the tighter groups I’ve ever been a part of, and I’ve been a part of some pretty tight groups.”
Cody Ross came off the disabled list on Tuesday and was thrown right into the starting lineup. He also threw himself right behind his teammates.
‘It’s one of the better [clubhouses] I’ve ever been on,” Ross said. “All the guys get along real well. We enjoy playing with each other, we enjoy hanging out with each other ‘ just a really good vibe in here.’ Read the rest of this entry »
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